« PreviousContinue »
Say, was it virtue, more though Heaven De'er gave,
What makes all physical or moral ill?
120 Think we, like some weak prince, th' Eternal Cause Prone for his favourites to reverse his laws ?
IV. Shall burning Ætna, if a sage requires,
WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT.--This world, 'tis true,
VI. But sometimes virtue starves, while vice is fed.'
What nothing earthly gives or can destroy,
Judges and senates have been bought for gold;
190 Whose life is healthful, and whose conscience clear, Because he wants a thousand pounds a-year.
Honour and shame from no condition rise; Act well your part, there all the honour lies. Fortune in men has some small difference made, One flaunts in rags, one flutters in brocade; The cobbler apron'd, and the parson gown'd, The friar hooded, and the monarch crown’d. • What differ more, you cry, 'than crown and cowl?' I'll tell you, friend! a wise man and a fool. 200 You'll find, if once the monarch acts the monk, Or, cobbler-like, the parson will be drunk, Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow : The rest is all but leather or prunella.
Stuck o'er with titles, and hung round with strings, That thou may'st be by kings, or whores of kings. Boast the pure blood of an illustrious race, In quiet flow from Lucrece to Lucrece: But by your fathers' worth if yours you rate, Count me those only who were good and great. 210 Go! if your ancient, but ignoble blood Has crept through scoundrels ever since the flood, Go! and pretend your family is young ; Nor own your fathers have been fools so long. What can ennoble sots, or slaves, or cowards ? Alas! not all the blood of all the Howards.
Look next on greatness ; say where greatness lies : • Where, but among the heroes and the wise ?' Heroes are much the same, the point 's agreed, From Macedonia's madman to the Swede ; 220 The whole strange purpose of their lives, to find, Or make, an enemy of all mankind ! Not one looks backward, onward still he goes, Yet ne'er looks forward farther than his nose. No less alike the politic and wise : All sly slow things, with circumspective eyes : Men in their loose unguarded hours they take, Not that themselves are wise, but others weak.
But grant that those can conquer, these can cheat; 'Tis phrase absurd to call a villain great:
230 Who wickedly is wise, or madly brave, Is but the more a fool, the more a knave. Who noble ends by noble means obtains, Or failing, smiles in exile or in chains, Like good Aurelius let him reign, or bleed Like Socrates, that man is great indeed.
What's fame? a fancied life in others' breath, A thing beyond us, e'en before our death. Just what you hear you have; and what's unknown, The same (my lord) if Tully's, or your own. 240 All that we feel of it begins and ends In the small circle of our foes or friends ; To all beside as much an empty shade As Eugene living, as a Cæsar dead; Alike or when or where they shone or shine, Or on the Rubicon, or on the Rhine. A wit's a feather, and a chief a rod; An honest man 's the noblest work of God. Fame but from death a villain's name can save, As justice tears his body from the grave;
250 When what t'oblivion better were resign'd, Is hung on high, to poison half mankind, All fame is foreign but of true desert, Plays round the head, but comes not to the heart : One self-approving hour whole years outweighs Of stupid starers, and of loud huzzas; And more true joy Marcellus exiled feels, Than Cæsar with a senate at his heels.
In parts superior what advantage lies? Tell (for you can) what is it to be wise ?
260 Tis but to know how little can be known, To see all others' faults, and feel our own; Condemn'd in business or in arts to drudge, Without a second, or without a judge: Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land? All fear, none aid you, and few understand. Painful pre-eminence! yourself to view Above life's weakness, and its comforts too.
Bring then these blessings to a strict account; Make fair deductions; see to what they 'mount:
How much of other each is sure to cost;
271 How each for other oft is wholly lost; How inconsistent greater goods with these ; How sometimes life is risk'd, and always ease : Think, and if still the things thy envy call, Say, wouldst thou be the man to whom they fall ? To sigh for ribands if thou art so silly, Mark how they grace Lord Umbra, or Sir Billy. Is yellow dirt the passion of thy life? Look but on Gripus, or on Gripus' wife.
280 If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shined, The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind : Or, ravish'd with the whistling of a name, See Cromwell damn'd to everlasting fame! If all, united, thy ambition call, From ancient story, learn to scorn them all. There, in the rich, the honour'd, fam'd, and great, See the false scale of happiness complete ! In hearts of kings, or arms of queens who lay, How happy! those to ruin, these betray.
290 Mark by what wretched steps their glory grows, From dirt and sea-weed as proud Venice rose ,5 In each how guilt and greatness equal ran, And all that raised the hero sunk the man : Now Europe's laurels on their brows behold, But stain'd with blood, or ill-exchanged for gold : Then see them broke with toils, or sunk in ease, Or infamous for plunder'd provinces. O wealth ill-fated! which no act of fame E'er taught to shine, or sanctified from shame! 300 What greater bliss attends their close of life? Some greedy minion, or imperious wife :: . The trophied arches, storied halls invade, And haunt their slumbers in the pompous shade. Alas! not dazzled with their noon-tide ray, Compute the morn and evening to the day; The whole amount of that enormous fame, A tale that blends their glory with their shame!
Know then this truth (enough for man to know) Virtue alone is happiness below.'
310 The only point where human bliss stands still, And tastes the good without the fall to ill ;